Permaculture . . . why me?

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Even studying online, students get to answer the usual get-to-know-you classroom questions.

Q. What you want to achieve by doing this course?

Initially, from this course I want to achieve: greater familiarity and understanding about permaculture; how to observe; some proficiency in permaculture design; how to promote and apply permaculture ethics and principles personally, locally and globally.

One of the first of Bill Mollison’s key insights I read was:

“Permaculture is a philosophy of working with rather than against nature; of protracted and thoughtful observation rather than protracted and thoughtless action…”

Which speaks to a bothersome personal consideration… pragmatic motivation behind our move from city working life to a simple, creative rural village lifestyle: health. Aged in our mid 50’s and mid 60’s respectively both myself and G.O. husband have orthopaedic issues which limit the type & duration of physical activities we comfortably manage. We do what we want to do but we need to work smarter not harder.

Practically, from this course I would like achieve an improvement to our property’s water strategy, accomplish more productive use of the property, and ultimately realise a permaculture design across the entire property.

In my garden… needs a plan

Since 2011 I’ve been utilising various social media platforms; a member of online, blogging, Instagram and Facebook communities, sharing thoughts, dreams, ideas, information, inspiration and our journey. The manifesto of my personal blog @daleleelife101 is Live Simple Home Made Grown Local Creative Better.

A long-time supporter of local and farmers markets, after considerable deliberation whether to participate in a selling capacity while despairing of hyper-consumerism, I’ve recently decided to take @daleleelife101 into the real world in the form of a much needed stallholder at our local village markets, primarily to support the community but also as a tangible means to walk my talk… I would like to achieve from this course a productive permaculture garden that contributes useful and inspirational garden produce and seeds excess to our household needs.

Personally, from this course I would like to expand my scope, to become a permaculture advocate.

Foremost, by studying and adopting permaculture practices I aim to follow Mahatma Gandhi’s advice: “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

“If you give up on trying to change larger structures and just go off on what some would say is a personal indulgence or being a survivalist, it can be seen as incredibly negative or pessimistic. But the other way to think of it is this: through manifesting the way we live and acting as if it’s normal, you’re defending yourself against depression and dysfunction, but you’re also providing a model that others can copy. And that is absolutely about bringing large-scale change…” is reassuring testimony from David Holmgren.

From The Sketchbook Project: How we spend our days is how we spend our lives

Permaculture . . . a selection of freely shared resources

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Before I committed to my year of online Certificate IV Permaculture study via Tafe NSW Digital, permaculture and I had a getting-to-know-you period thanks to a wide selection of freely shared online resources.

Watch

Permaculture Masterclass: A Four-Part Series, Geoff Lawton

The Pocket-Sized Patch, Gardening Australia

My Garden Path – Hannah Maloney, Gardening Australia

Permablitz on Gardening Australia

More Than A Garden, Gardening Australia

Listen

Formidable Vegetable (check out their music clips on YouTube)

Wiki Who’s Who

David Holmgren

Sepp Holzer

Robyn Francis

Masanobu Fukuoka

Toby Hemenway

Geoff Lawton

Bill Mollison

Other resources in no particular order…

Permaculture Principles, David Holmgren – Free downloads

Retrosuburbia, preview and resources, David Holmgren

Permaculture Research Institute

Permaculture, Self Sufficiency and Sustainable Living Books

Permaculture Fundamentals, Permaculture Mindmaps

Geoff Lawton Online

Soil and Health Library, free downloadable books

Milkwood

Permaculture College Australia, Djanbung Gardens

Tagari Publications, permaculture resources

Holmgren Design, permaculture resources

Toby Hemenway, Permaculture Resources and References

Toby Hemenway, Reading List

Candlelight Farm Permaculture, Ross Mars

Permaculture Association, Top Ten Permaculture Books

Graham Bell, Changing the world one day at a time

The Witches Kitchen, Linda Woodrow

Permaculture Ideas – One Straw Revolution, Masanobu Fukuoka

“Sitting at our back doorsteps, all we need to live a good life lies about us. Sun, wind, people, buildings, stones, sea, birds and plants surround us. Cooperation with all these things brings harmony, opposition to them brings disaster and chaos.” ― Bill Mollison, Introduction to Permaculture

Hold the world
From The Sketchbook Project: Hold the world you know carefully cradled in your hands

Disclaimer: daleleelife101.blog is a personal blog. Where I share resources and links I’m doing so subjectively, rather than as endorsement, and I receive no cash or kind benefits from doing so. Any material contained in this blog has been prepared without taking into account the reader’s objectives, situation or needs but with the best of intentions to entertain. Before acting on any material in this blog I recommend the reader consider whether it is appropriate for the reader’s particular circumstances. I do not accept liability for any errors, omissions or inclusions in the contents. If this blog contains reference to anything at all, I recommend the reader take into account their own thoughts, feelings & all possible outcomes before making any decisions or taking any actions, deliberate or unintentional, as a result of reading this blog.

Permaculture . . . what’s the attraction?

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Permaculture Flower

What is permaculture, you ask, as I did and found out it wasn’t what I thought it was, but more.

Permaculture is a word originally coined by Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in the mid 1970’s to describe an “integrated, evolving system of perennial or self-perpetuating plant and animal species useful to man.”  ~ holmgren.com.au

However, befittingly, permaculture and therefore the definition of what it is, is ever evolving.

A fortnight ago I began my year of online Certificate IV Permaculture study via Tafe NSW Digital. Studying online, I discovered, involves a lot of writing. Fortunately, I like writing, and it’s one of the things I missed having time to do over the past couple of years while I commuted to and attended face-to-face horticulture classes at Tafe NSW. During that time I shared snippets of my horticulture studies experience pictorially via daily Instagram posts.

This year of study, I think, might lend itself to some blog posts… if you would like to follow my permaculture journey.

My classroom at home… Certificate IV Permaculture online study via Tafe NSW Digital, 2019

The first get-to-know-you assignment question…

Q. What attracts you to permaculture? You can also mention how you found out about permaculture and what permaculture experience you have had if you like.

A. After living and working fulltime in Sydney for the decade it took us -husband and me- to be financially prepared, living as sustainably as you can in a rented one bedroom apartment in a concrete neighbourhood immediately adjacent to a train line in the inner-west outskirts of the inner-city 2.5 kms from the CBD… keeping the faith by diligently supporting farmers markets and practising living lightly, connecting with and being informed and inspired by many like-minded people, travelling back and forth -1000 km roundtrip- on public holiday long weekends and summer vacations to our small residential property in a rural village on the Mid North/Coffs Coast… three and a half years ago we tree-changed to live there fulltime with the intention of being as self-reliant as possible.

After taking a holiday break when we travelled around Australia in 2016, I began studying fulltime in 2017 while looking for a new direction; following a dream to live simply, creatively, have a garden, and study horticulture but unsure where the direction would lead me.

I completed Certificate II Horticulture in June 2019, Certificate III Production Horticulture in 2018 and Certificate III Horticulture in 2017 at Tafe NSW, Coffs Harbour Education Campus.

A long-time follower of online media: websites; e-newsletters; social media; any sort of information and communication, I had gleaned a perception of commodified – buy this book, pay to attend that course- permaculture… somewhat misconstrued as it turns out.

The actuality of permaculture as a philosophy and available every-person liveable culture became apparent after not too much research when a deeper interest was piqued upon serendipitous discovery of its offering as a Tafe NSW online course; the list of course units hinting there was more to permaculture than I had believed… beginning with design.

What I discovered was both broader and more nuanced than I had understood before my further reading revealed permaculture’s concertina-like scope confers it traction in every context of day-to-day life, and the personal revelation that permaculture is holistic and inclusive of what I had considered were my assorted interests – environmental sustainability & stewardship, resource and land conservation, regenerative horticulture & agriculture, organics, biodynamics, gardening, living sustainably, local community- but offers much more: not a counterculture but an egalitarian toolkit.

“One of the most important things about permaculture is that it is founded on a series of principles that can be applied to any circumstance—agriculture, urban design, or the art of living. The core of the principles is the working relationships and connections between all things.”
― Juliana Birnbaum Fox, Sustainable Revolution: Permaculture in Ecovillages, Urban Farms, and Communities Worldwide

Certificate II Horticulture at Tafe NSW Coffs Harbour Education Campus, Feb – June 2019
Certificate III Production Horticulture at Tafe NSW Coffs Harbour Education Campus, 2018
Certificate III Horticulture at Tafe NSW Coffs Harbour Education Campus, 2017

from my #witchskitchen . . .

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I’m preparing to launch @daleleelife101 -and myself- as a stallholder into the world of local markets. A long-term patron of local markets… and not so local… we visited our fair share of markets when we travelled around Australia in 2016… for years I have bored the G.O. witless with my to-ing and fro-ing on the possibility of realising my dream of having my own stall. On the one hand there is -I believe- too much gratuitous consumer stuff being thrust at us these days. On the other hand, I derive great satisfaction from creating simple inexpensive household and personal products. Finally it came down to monkey see monkey do: I hope to inspire others ​with my manifesto… ​#LiveSimpleHomeMadeGrownLocalCreativeBetter​.​

#inmykitchen … despite being a fan of recycling, I detest cleaning jars… fortunately I find filling them with a witch’s kitchen of contents irresistible…

​​As soon as we tree-changed from city to country three and a half years ago I began working on our mission statement to… “follow our dream of living simply and creatively” ​by making as many food, household and personal items as my time and talents allow… simple seasonal condiments and preserves, flavoured salts, dried herbs, tea, cleaning products, deodorant, fragrance… some of which as well as plants and seeds will translate to a market stall, and hopefully -time and talent allowing- I’ll be inspired to try my hand at some new creative projects.

After realising another dream -studying Horticulture at Tafe NSW which involved me driving 160 km roundtrip to and from Coffs Harbour twice a week for two and a half years during semester time- I’ve turned my focus to home, studying Certificate IV Permaculture via Tafe NSW Digital… a commitment of additional course hours but no commute, hopefully scope for further creativity.

#inmygarden … I now have my own shed

A multitude of ideas and options crisscross my mind but I keep returning to the intention… keep it real. Other than investing in a small selection of beautiful and reusable amber glass bottles all other bottles and jars are recycled as well as reusable, keeping plastic as much as possible to a minimum.

After I complete a Food Safety Supervision training course in early August, my plan is to begin with the next local Taylors Arm markets, held our lovely old village hall. I’ve persuaded -I hope- a couple of neighbours -a baker and a maker- and maybe the G.O. to have a go as well. Part of the motivation that finally prompted me to act is my wish for a successful & regular village market. More stallholders are needed… be the change you want to see in your community.

“Don’t underestimate the power of your vision to change the world. Whether that world is your office, your community, an industry or a global movement, you need to have a core belief that what you contribute can fundamentally change the paradigm or way of thinking about problems.” Leroy Hood

Taylors Arm village markets in the old hall

“Village life gently swirled around them, with the perpetual ebb and flow of people, scurrying in every direction. The village was a living, organic entity, with blood flowing through its veins, and with a definite pulse and heartbeat. It had its own distinct personality and its own dark caustic humour, and was constantly processing and regurgitating information through its winding, meandering streets.” Leonardo Donofrio, Old Country

thoughts from the wee small hours . . .

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Time moves on, things change… this I have always known but several years into living the reality of my long-dreamed aspirations it’s apparent there are certain matters I need to take stock of. Thoughtfulness around such things takes the opportunity of early morning serenity. My contemplations in the early hours of this morning included…

Sleep vs creativity. Today’s writing is a comfortable and familiar muscle memory exercise of fingers on keyboard beginning at about 4.30 am to exorcise thoughts which had been eddying since 2.30 am. Perhaps finally an opportunity after several years of catching up on and enjoying more sleep than our city-working lives allowed to persuade my body on an ongoing basis that the wee small hours are a propitious time for peaceful creative endeavours.

Wee small hours
Collecting my thoughts from the wee small hours

Pickles. It’s almost show time: back in the day of my city office job and long hours communing with my own thoughts, one of my cherished dreams was firstly, learn to make; secondly, enter a jar of pickles in our local country show; and ultimately win first prize… of course. Several Macksville Shows have come and gone since I began pickle making, circumstances conspiring to delay the dream’s fruition: the pickles were all eaten; we were out of town; the pickles were made outside the cut off date. I have a cupboard full of Choko pickles I made last week. However, I admit to myself, the dream has died… it is enough that I enjoy the process of making something out of almost nothing and that my family and friends enjoy eating them.

Choko pickles
Homemade Choko pickles, I declare you a winner in my household

Wellbeing. While I manage my blood sugar issues well enough, yet again my body is struggling with old foes psoriasis and candida. After recent flareups I stumbled upon research that suggests there may be a connection between all three. The resultant tumbleweeds of investigations via a plethora of online sources roll around in my head*. I am long familiar with their respective natures. Environmental and dietary mould, fungi and their host conditions are not my friends. I’m loathe to exorcise too much of anything from my life… everything in moderation is my motto. However, accomplishing an effective balance isn’t easy. Certain things I’m very fond of such as sourdough, pickling, baking, mushrooms, cheese, wine are moot. More research. Sigh.

Sauerkraut kit
Dabbling in sauerkraut… moot

Dad. My seventy-six-year-old Dad’s health challenges of the past few years continue. A week on from his recent Easter long weekend visit with us he looms large in my contemplations. In my head, I know most likely it is what it is but in my heart I wish there were magic words I could say to kindle the lifestyle changes he needs to and could make if the incentive was preferable to the status quo. Sometimes I feel too far away, other times not far enough.

Dad on our verandah
Dad enjoying the sun on our verandah with the G.O.

Blog. My writing-blogging crisis of confidence -exacerbated by innumerable demands on my time- continues. Does the world need my thoughts in long form… does our oversubscribed culture need more of anything? Many of my longstanding blogging community are absent, sporadic and/or moved on to other creative projects and/or migrated to the immediacy and brevity of alternative social media offerings.

Page from Sketchbook Project
Other creative endeavours… a page from my Sketchbook Project

Big. Corporate, Food, Pharma, Chemical, Agriculture, Government… Have you watched Stink? Have you listened to this ABC Conversations podcast interview with Beth Macy author of Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America? Do you worry about pesticides in food? Despite being as diligent as our time and means allow, the G.O. and I are increasingly chemical sensitive, and disheartened about the welfare of our environment.

Sourdough
I worry about Glysophate and wheat…

Cupboard. My latest project which goes some way to explaining the aforementioned innumerable demands on my time.

Cupboard
The cupboard project… rescued from the neighbour’s wood shed, stored under our house, ready for a clean up today

And, ever-present… will the photography course I enrolled in last semester then cancelled by Tafe be offered for the later part of this year… will I be able to continue with my studies… if not, what will I do with my time… life… in the vege garden, if the Elephant Garlic doesn’t shoot should I plant beetroot?

Garden
In my garden…

“Morning is wonderful. Its only drawback is that it comes at such an inconvenient time of day.” ― Glen Cook, Sweet Silver Blues

*Links re Candida, Psoriasis, Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome:
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323744.php
https://www.physiciansweekly.com/psoriasis-metabolic-syndrome/
https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/323561.php
https://www.healthline.com/health/psoriasis-and-candida
https://commonsensehome.com/candida/
https://www.inspire.com/groups/talk-psoriasis/discussion/its-candida-if-you-have-psoriasis-stop-and-read-this/
https://www.organiclifestylemagazine.com/cure-psoriasis-by-killing-candida
https://www.amymyersmd.com/2018/01/eczema-skin-issues-dandruff-may-bigger-problem-think/

Ghosts of Christmas Past . . .

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Ghosts of Christmas Past visit me each year, sometimes twice as we continue our new tradition of Christmas in July. The ghosts are family, welcome and regular visitors to my kitchen. I look forward to the festive season, find pleasure in Christmas by melding my memories with what gives me joy nowadays. However, it doesn’t always come easy. Every year we ask ourselves will we put up the Christmas tree. End-of-year-tired-adult-me says no. Six-year-old-me says please can we. So we do. Six-year-old-me, lover of twinkle, adorns the tree with lights and we all enjoy the ambience but it comes down a day or so after Christmas Day as adult-me likes an orderly house. The ghosts remind me that festive spirit doesn’t come from excessive doing and spending and standing in line to buy overpriced seafood. They help me remember how much I loved our homemade celebrations.

My memories are scant of Christmases from the early years but the marks on my psyche are carved deep. A single Christmas, age five, the last at home with Mum, and Santa’s gift of a blue child-size table and chairs. I was twenty-ish before I discovered by chance it was handmade by my Dad. It stayed around for a long time, later bequeathed to my seventeen years younger sister.

the blue table and me
A friend and me at playing at the blue table and chairs at Oakleigh circa 1972.

However, when I think of Christmas, my memories invariably crystallize at my grandparents’ farm. The living room with its pine tree I ‘helped’ my grandfather chop during an expedition in the bush, placed in a bucket of water and stationed in the small corner next to the fireplace. Simply decorated with ornaments gathered over the years, not new; not much in that house was.

my grandparents farm how i remember it
“Oakleigh” my grandparents farm circa 1970’s, how I remember it.

The Christmas tree skirted by a few wrapped gifts modest in nature and number. I could also -as I had been good… of course- expect a gift on Christmas morning from Santa and Christmas stocking filled with useful things, story books, colouring pencils and small treats. A distinct memory is the long-awaited Christmas morning of the much-desired baby doll… which Santa inconveniently left behind the tree. Forbearance is still not one of my virtues. Nor singing, another clear recollection is my uncle suggesting I sing Silent Night… silently.

musical doll circa 1970
Souvenir of Christmas past, a wind-up musical doll, a Christmas gift from my nanna circa 1970.

My nanna’s kitchen is one of my realest memories. If I am very focused, barely breathing, I can transport myself to it, six years old again. Our festive food was made in this -tacked on to the back of the house after the old outside kitchen burned to the ground- boxy room with its wood stove, faded paint timber dresser, Laminex table and modest Kelvinator refrigerator.

Plates of Christmas cake appeared when visitors did and disappeared quickly along with welcomed cups of tea or glasses of beer depending on the hour of day, sat side by side with Bakelite trays of child tempting treats; lollies, assorted nuts from which as the only grandchild I would freely pick the cashews & brazil nuts, irresistible crunchy sweet red-coated peanuts.

Baked vegetables, I’m sure there was a whole panful cooked in dripping but my eyes were on the prize, sticky baked white sweet potatoes, served with roast chicken -wing for me please- with bread & onion stuffing and gravy -rather than the more common roasted rooster- selected for the occasion from the laying hens and prepared by my grandfather… thankfully I didn’t make the connection when I was ‘helping’ him although the memory of the stink of chicken feathers and skin scalded in boiling water is fresh as ever decades later.

Christmas pudding studded with thripence and sixpence but a little light on red jelly cherries in the fruit mix, the price of my ‘helping’. I still have my nanna’s trifle bowl, smallish but cut crystal and treasured, big enough for each of us to savour sufficient portions of pale sunshine coloured custard and buttery cake both made with freshly laid eggs and creamy milk from their dairy cows, sprinkled with a little of my grandfather’s sweet sherry some of which might have also been tipped into an accompanying small glass for the cook, studded with glistening slices of peaches picked from the orchard and preserved in jars, dotted with spoonfuls of shiny multi-hued jelly.

Somehow my nanna conjured festive food miracles akin to biblical loaves and fishes. Counting my grandparents, aunts and uncles home for the holidays, and assorted visitors we might number more than ten for Christmas lunch which would be plentiful enough to require a postprandial nap, followed by the cool joy of a salad of leftovers for tea which is what as dairy farmers they called the meal eaten around 5 pm, and later when the news was on the black and white television (likely purchased along with the Kelvinator, the only nod to modernity in the house), a pot of tea and small bowls of remaining sweets.

If you mention Christmas food to my family members of the era, their collective recollection will be my nanna’s egg mayonnaise which I remember dressed our Christmas tea and Boxing Day salads -lettuce, tomato, cucumber, onion, tinned beetroot & pineapple, potatoes, ham, chicken- in cold creamy deliciousness. A secret recipe apparently but after some family conferring my aunt and I agree this is it, although I’m inclined to the milk version.

polly's salad dressing
Polly’s salad dressing.

That Christmas when I was six was the last for my beloved nanna. She died one hot afternoon in late February after I had gone back to school, in her sleep on the green vinyl night and day sofa in the living room where there might have been a few remaining pine needles escaped her housekeeping in the crevice between the carpet and the wall in the small corner next to the fireplace. I found her there cold to my inquiring touch having arrived home after walking up from the school bus drop off to a too quiet house just ahead of my Pa who had popped over the river to the lucerne paddocks.

four generations, dad, nanna holding me, and her mother
Four generations, Dad, Nanna holding me, and her mother at Oakleigh circa 1967.

Fresh from Christmas’ recent incarnation which saw the G.O. and I visit and celebrate with my family a few days before, in their merry style. Everyone enjoyed catching up and had a good time. Back at home for Christmas eve, one of my favourite days, we spent it with the usual soundtrack of carols in kitchen and lawnmower in the yard. My local in-law family opted out of Christmas celebrations this year… and after the event were a bit sorry but it meant on Christmas Day we pleased ourselves, barbequed breakfast, exchanged Christmas morning phone calls with faraway family, opened a few gifts, visited the in-laws, walked on the beach and later enjoyed a quiet festive food dinner.

our christmas tree suffered collateral damage from a christmas morning altercation between deez-dog and his new squeaky pig toy
Christmas tree collateral damage from a Christmas morning altercation between Deez-dog and his new squeaky pig toy.

Yuletide, for me, is timely alchemy of intangible festal mood and tangible: our hand-me-down tree with its lights and decorations all the more loved after fourteen December Christmases and one July; gifts squirreled away through the year; wreath on the front door; sparkly lights woven through a tree in the front garden to cheer passing night-time festive travellers, which the G.O. and I once were; seasonal home cooking that brings to mind food our grandmothers made… manifestations of my memories in a contemporary setting.

Christmas is occasion for quiet communion with my ghosts who are never far away anyway, at home with the life and place I’m at now that quite resembles theirs’, no accident, I’m inclined to believe. In my early fifties, three years beyond the age my nanna attained, I get to experience the other side of the festive coin. Now a step-grandmother, I found satisfaction and joy in our inaugural family Christmas in July when the kids’ -old and young- eyes lit up at the array of simple food I had made, planning already the next year’s festivities before they departed to their home a few hours drive down the coast, and talking about the food for months afterwards.

christmas in july same same but different food to december, and morning frost for authenticity
Christmas in July same same but different food and tree decorations to December, and morning frost for authenticity.

Just a few weeks after Christmas past is a felicitous time to look forward festively, not a year ahead but to our next gathering in July: holiday ambience invoked by our tree in cheery adornments of white ribbon, red hearts and -of course- lights, adjacent to the living room wood fire which will be lit and around which we’ll gather to eat dessert and open gifts. Devised as a family gathering -eschewing the bandwagon of mid-winter commercial trendiness- an opportunity to partake not only of gifts and comfort food but timeless pastimes en famille of brisk strolls, and toasted marshmallows around the pot belly fire outdoors… circumventing the pressure cooker of December festive negotiations and obligations.

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” ― Bob Hope

wabi-sabi

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While my daleleelife101.blog has been somnolent I have been gently expunging from my self any disquiet lingering from a bout of self-imposed obligation that in order to be part of the blog-world I must write something… anything… on a regular basis. Although possibly blog-worthy thoughts -and some words- came, they never fell into place at the quite the right time.

kitchen window
Thoughts come… and go, at the kitchen sink.

However, remaining an interested blog follower, reader and commenter; perceiving winds of change I wonder might I have been an early adopter in a drift -at least among some of us who have personal rather than commercial blogs- away from obligatory posting and commenting to a kinder life-centred approach. And so, feeling absolved and a lot more relaxed, a few words – enough- have come just in time to write a footnote for 2018.

closing the gate
Closing the gate on horticulture studies, for now.

Similar in many ways to 2017, 2018 has been a productive year. Literally, because I followed my first year of Horticulture study at Tafe with a more hands-on focus year of Production Horticulture study. Don’t ask me why… the best answer I could supply is my brain enjoys absorbing the subject matter and my body appreciates applying it in outdoor environs despite sometimes being a bit worse for wear afterwards; an antidote to many years of clerkish work-life indoors.

Beyond our residential home garden situation I’m unlikely to apply my horticultural knowhow, such as it is -conversational rather than expert- although given the opportunity I’d continue that field of study when the next level course -currently under development- becomes available at Coffs Harbour Tafe where I was studying.

walking up to the block
What gets you out of bed in the morning? This walk up to the production horticulture block.

During 2018 an itch of creativity bade me explore beyond my customary endeavours. In November I completed a six-week MOOC, NHI101x: Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101 via the University of Newcastle and edX. The same creative urge led me to take up the opportunity to study Photography and Photo Imaging with Leo Meier at my local Macksville Tafe campus in 2019… somewhat befitting as I spent much of the horticulture course time taking and Instagramming photographs.

nhi101x collage
6 weeks of drawing challenges: NHI101x: Drawing Nature, Science and Culture: Natural History Illustration 101.

2018 has been significant for us. This year is our third since treechanging from city working life to a differently natured but equally busy life in a country village. If there was going to be a tipping point, this year was going to be it.

Life isn’t always easy or perfect. Some of our physical considerations we thought would improve when we gave up paid work in the city, persist… turns out age catches up with us too. Accommodating the G.O.’s tinnitus, osteoarthritis and lingering occupational injuries is an ongoing health & lifestyle challenge for us both; my MiL now aged 85 lives independently with our support; and my Dad’s health is not great but, as they say, we are all “above the dirt”.

rainbow
If we were looking for signs we are in the right place… God’s fingers and a rainbow.

Practically -and fortunately- we allowed for wildcards and learning curves in the many years of planning and preparation towards the type of lifestyle we aimed for, realistically matched our aspirations to our finances, and factored in contingencies.

We revel that we backed ourselves, are doing it even if it’s not exactly what we imagined [what ever is?], living the simple life we dreamed of, worked towards, and arrived at. We derive a great deal of satisfaction from shedding our old life and beginning anew we are proceeding successfully, getting better at living well with what we have, do and make of it. We’re still here, loving our life more than ever.

“…in repairing the object you really ended up loving it more, because you now knew its eagerness to be reassembled, and in running a fingertip over its surface you alone could feel its many cracks – a bond stronger than mere possession.” Nicholson Baker, Room Temperature

I’m a devotee of the Japanese term wabi-sabi which according to the Collins Dictionary means “a way of living that focuses on finding beauty within the imperfections of life and accepting peacefully the natural cycle of growth and decay” and has come into common usage, it certainly resonates with us.

In pictures:

Production Horticulture: From irritation irrigation repairs to riding around a blueberry farm in golf carts, to biodynamics, to 150 kilogram garlic harvest and everything in between with a great team.

Dabbling in design: Photo shoot, corflute signs, business cards, website, Facebook and Instagram profiles for TA Timber.

What works for us? Our mantra… live simple home made grown local creative better. Clockwise from top left: Flowers and leaves prevail amongst vegetables in our home garden. Trying it… turmeric tincture might be a wonder cure for osteoarthritis. Diesel is the master of life-life balance. As are the chooks. It all comes together on a plate.

“Get rid of all that is unnecessary. Wabi-sabi means treading lightly on the planet and knowing how to appreciate whatever is encountered, no matter how trifling, whenever it is encountered. […] In other words, wabi-sabi tells us to stop our preoccupation with success–wealth, status, power, and luxury–and enjoy the unencumbered life. Obviously, leading the simple wabi-sabi life requires some effort and will and also some tough decisions. Wabi-sabi acknowledges that just as it is important to know when to make choices, it is also important to know when not to make choices: to let things be. Even at the most austere level of material existence, we still live in a world of things. Wabi-sabi is exactly about the delicate balance between the pleasure we get from things and the pleasure we get from freedom of things.” Leonard Koren, Wabi-Sabi: For Artists, Designers, Poets & Philosophers

For glimpses of our everyday life you can follow me on Instagram @ daleleelife101 and on Facebook @ daleleelife101.blog.

“For last year’s words belong to last year’s language
And next year’s words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning.”
(Little Gidding)
― T.S. Eliot

Wishing you love and light for 2019.

 

 

a journey of sorts . . .

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When the student is ready, the teacher will appear… Without fully realising I’ve been needing-looking for a creative project I’ve been feeling the lack. And, I need a creative outlet that gets me out of the kitchen, doesn’t involve flour, butter, sugar, eggs, food processor, saucepans or washing damn jars.

A few years back Anne Lawson proposed The Sisterhood of the Travelling Sketchbook just as the G.O. and I were settling after relocating from city to country-coast followed by an around Australia roadtrip, and the timing didn’t feel right. Two years later, cue aha moment when I read a post by Richard Guest of the blog The Future Is Papier Mâché about the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project

Following the link Richard provided I found plenty to interest me… Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project is a “crowdfunded library of artist sketchbooks that anyone can join”.

“Founded in 2006, Brooklyn Art Library is a creative platform that hosts interactive projects accessible to anyone. We are the largest collection of sketchbooks in the world. Housing over 40,000 sketchbooks on our shelves and over 20,000 in our digital library, we fuse the digital with the analog to create a one of a kind experience for all of our artists and visitors.”

Follow your own theme or go with one of the Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project 2018 themes… Go-between. Disconnection. Bizarre. Things I’ve left behind. Standstills. Rituals.  This one thing… Burdens & Brushes. Homonyms. Stitch & story. Infinite sketch. City streets. Melancholy. A visual short story of the day we met.”

You can opt for standard and digitized versions. The current 2018 sketchbook project deadlines are ORDER BY: NOV 15th, 2018 / SUBMIT BY: FEB 15th, 2019.

“After the due date we’ll exhibit the current year’s collection of sketchbooks both at the library in NYC and out of town. Everyone who sends their completed sketchbook back in time will have their book included, and later cataloged into our permanent collection at Brooklyn Art Library.”

The Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project website is www.brooklynartlibrary.com. Find out more via the FAQs, and order a blank sketchbook here.

I decided to sleep on it. If I could come up with a starting point and theme I’d go for it.

I signed up this morning.

Brooklyn Art Library Sketchbook Project

“Creativity is contagious. Pass it on.” ~ Albert Einstein

The not so humble art of choko pickles​​

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Chokos are an old-time Aussie favourite, native to South America where it is known as chayote. The choko vine remains a feature of many backyards, growing over the chook pen or along a fence; bearing green, slightly spiky fruit with mild, white flesh. In Australia it was used as a pie or jam filler during the Depression years. Often in those days the vine adorned its contempory, the backyard dunny. Choko still graces modern dinner tables of its fans, in vegetable form -barbequed, fried or baked with white or cheese sauce.

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In this household I’m the single fan of choko as a vegetable. The G.O. however, has a fondness for choko pickles: the speciality of many a nanna, mum, aunt or generous neighbour; omnipresent as a condiment; ubiquitous at fetes & market stalls; and useful as a bartering commodity.

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Day 1

Use a long pole with a bent nail in the end to reach a baker’s dozen of the highest & biggest chokos on your neighbour’s vine because everyone else got there before you.

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Peel, deseed & neatly dice chokos.

Wash your hands half a dozen times to get the choko sap off them… unsuccessfully.

Peel and neatly dice 16 medium brown onions.

Cry.

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Soak choko & onions in salted water overnight.

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Hunt out jars from where they’ve been stashed in the shed.

Prepare jars by boiling for 30 minutes to sterilise.

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Day 2

Open all the kitchen windows. Turn on ceiling fan.

Heft tub of soaking chokos & onion onto the sink, drain & rinse.

Transfer chokos & onion to large stockpot.

Add equal quantities white sugar & white vinegar, i.e. 12 cups each. 

Update shopping list to replenish white sugar & vinegar.

Add 6 teaspoons each of tumeric, ginger powder, white pepper, mustard powder & curry powder.

Stir to combine then bring to boil.

Reduce heat and simmer with lid on for approximately 1 hour.

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Panic that you haven’t sterilised enough jars.

Scour cupboards for more, wash, then microwave extra jars for 2 minutes.

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Put all jar lids in saucepan to sterilise… again, and boil for 10 minutes.

Put all jars on trays in oven on 120 Celsius for at least 30 minutes to sterilise… again.

Remove lid from stockpot, remembering not to stick face into spicy vinegar fumes. 

Reserve half cup of liquid in small bowl.

Firmly break up softened chokos & onions using potato masher.

Turn up heat, bring back to boil & reduce by half.

Mix 2 tablespoons of cornflour into cooled reserved liquid.

When contents of stockpot have reduced by half, lower heat & blend in cornflour mixture until contents thicken slightly.

If, like me, you prefer thick, caramelised pickles rather than liquidy-floury, use as little flour as possible, make smaller batches… and share judiciously.

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Spoon mixture into hot jars leaving headspace at top. 

Sort through lids trying to figure out which belongs to what. 

Screw lids on tight. 

Wipe spillage off jars with damp cloth. 

Lick sticky residue off fingers… mmm… spicy… sweet.

Place jars on heat-proof surface to cool. 

Label jars with contents & date unless you plan, later, to play guess the mystery contents. 

Add to the label, in the spirit of optimism, a note asking for jar to be returned.

Listen for popping noises that indicate jars have achieved airtight seals.

Happy dance each time you hear a pop.

Pickles are best left to mature for at least a week, better a month. 

Store jars in cool cupboard. Refrigerate once opened.

If a not quite full jar remains, store in fridge and enjoy immediately.

Eat choko pickles with cheese & bread, as a side to eggs & meat dishes, as a condiment to curries and casseroles, add to rissole/meatball mix…

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Many variations of choko pickle recipes can be found in old cookbooks and via Google. 

A basic, classic recipe is http://www.foodtolove.com.au/recipes/choko-pickle-306

If you want to learn more about chokos including how to grow your own, Jackie French: A Choko Needs to know its Place is a good start.

“Alexandra often said that if her mother were cast upon a desert island, she would thank God for her deliverance, make a garden, and find something to preserve. Preserving was almost a mania with Mrs. Bergson. Stout as she was, she roamed the scrubby banks of Norway Creek looking for fox grapes and goose plums, like a wild creature in search of prey. She made a yellow jam of the insipid ground cherries that grew on the prairie, flavoring it with lemon peel; and she made a sticky dark conserve of garden tomatoes. She had experimented even with the rank buffalo-pea, and she could not see a fine bronze cluster of them without shaking her head and murmuring, ‘What a pity!’ When there was nothing to preserve, she began to pickle.”  Willa Cather, ‘O Pioneers

 

an ordinary life

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An ordinary life… but a good life. Albeit -after 2 and a half years- still sans the routine and spare time I anticipated went hand-in-hand with tree-seachange lifestyle.

Our ordinary encompasses variously the housekeeping of life: mundane – the G.O. continues to wrangle osteoarthritis; necessary – assisting my MiL to live independently; and inevitable – ongoing concern around my Dad’s ill-health.

Too much time away from the blogosphere brings with it overthinking and inevitable crisis of confidence… is this ordinary life too simple to translate into a blog post, of little interest to those who already do what I do & know what I am only just learning, of no interest to others who never will, too irregular in its missives to appeal? 

And yet my fingers yearn to tap a keyboard and my mind constructs narratives, some of which find themselves accompanying my ad hoc day-to-day offerings via the convenience of Instagram.

There, perhaps, lies a possibility of sorts, laid out in snapshots which although intersowed with continuing horticultural studies evidence a focus on food. Allowed the opportunity, kitchen witchery has become an avocation… fulfilment of an urge to apply the fascination of alchemy to the everyday, augmenting our philosophy of live simple home made grown local creative better.

A philosophy which has crafted an extraordinary everyday that bears little resemblance to the retirement for which it is all too often misconstrued. It is, in fact, a full-time endeavour but wondrously rewarding.

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“And while it takes courage to achieve greatness, it takes more courage to find fulfillment in being ordinary. For the joys that last have little relationship to achievement, to standing one step higher on the victory platform. What is the adventure in being ordinary? It is daring to love just for the pleasure of giving it away. It is venturing to give new life and to nurture it to maturity. It is working hard for the pure joy of being tired at the end of the day. It is caring and sharing and giving and loving…” ~ Marilyn Thomsen